One of the biggest breakout XC stars in NJ last fall was Remy Dubac.
The standout at Clifton smashed her PR's on every course she ran, made school history by becoming the first ever state XC champ from her school, and shattered her school record at Holmdel Park with a time of 18:13 to place fifth place at the Meet of Champions.
The 18:13 by Dubac was not only a Clifton school record, but it vaulted her all the way up to No. 2 all-time in Passaic County history at Holmdel. The only Passaic County runner to go faster at Holmdel than Dubac is the legendary Angelina Perez of Lakeland, who ran a NJ Holmdel Park record of 17:07 last year to win the Group 2 state title.
Now Dubac, who gained a lot of confidence from her amazing season on the trails last year, which included victories at the North Jersey, Sec. 1 Group 4 meet, and title at the State Group 4 Championships, is super excited to see what she can do in her upcoming senior season.
Dubac is the second highest returning finisher from the Meet of Champions (St. Rose's Tilly O'Connor ran 18:12 to place fourth last year), so she has a great chance at winning her first M of C title this fall.
She also has PR of 10:48.70 for 2-miles and 5:08.84 for the mile on her impressive resume.
NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Dubac in between training and her shifts at the Coldstone Creamery for an in depth Q and A. We learned a lot about her, including how her older siblings (Max and Mia) got her involved in running, how her training is going, her big individual goals, how Clifton hopes to add to its great tradition by returning to the top in Passaic County, and a whole lot more.
So lean back in your recliner or beach chair and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on rising Clifton senior star Remy Dubac.
NJM: What are your thoughts on the XC season you had last year? Running a school record 18:13 and placing fifth at the Meet of Champions and becoming the first runner from your school to win a State Group title must mean a lot to you, Remy. How proud are you of what you accomplished last year on the trails?
Looking back at my XC season last year, I am still amazed by what I was able to accomplish. I never imagined that I would win the Group 4 race or even come in the top 5 at Meet of Champions. My time dropped over 30 seconds which was crazy to me. I am proud of myself and my hard work and dedication to XC really paid off towards the end of the season.
Take me through what summer training has been like for you? How many miles a week have you been running, where have you been doing your long runs, who have you been running with, and did you go to any XC camps etc?
After my outdoor season ended and I recovered from an illness that cut my season short, I started running with my sister (Mia). With about 20 miles a week in the beginning, I increased my mileage weekly and added workouts. I often run around town and nearby taking in the new scenery. I had the opportunity to run some great trails at NKRC (Northeast Kingdom Running Camp) in Vermont, and met new runners. It's been especially fun running with Viktoria Green
(Clifton High), Leanna Johnston
(IHA), and Isabella Ford (Punahou, HI). I've also done some fun runs with my teammates and look forward to improving with them.
How do you feel heading into this season, Remy? Is this the most fit you've ever been heading into an XC season?
Heading into this season, I feel ready and strong. After my last XC season, I gained more confidence in my ability as a runner. It showed me that I can do what I've been dreaming of throughout my running career. I believe this is the most fit I've ever been heading into the season. I have been going to the gym throughout the summer and with all the discipline I have with running, I feel I am in the best shape I can be at this time.
What are your biggest goals as far as times you'd like to run at Holmdel, Garret, Darlington, and some of the other courses you'll race on?
I am aiming for sub 18:00 at Holmdel and Darlington, and feel it's possible, especially at Darlington. With the training I have been doing, I feel that I am able to accomplish that goal. I'm also hoping to drop my Garret time and have a chance to run at Van Cortlandt for the Manhattan Invitational and Regionals. My goal at Van Cortlandt is to drop time as it is one of the harder courses I have run.
What's been the biggest difference in your training this summer compared to last summer? Increased mileage? More quality stuff in terms of faster pace etc?
The biggest difference in my training this summer compared to last summer is that I prepared a workout plan. I have my runs scheduled and I stick to them. Adding strength training has also been a plus.
What is your favorite long run (distance, place, and time) during the summer, and what is your favorite workout during the XC season?
A favorite long run of mine is one I run at night, especially around my house as I have a view of New York City, and turning the corner to see the skyline makes night runs the best. With music blasting and the cool air, you could never go wrong. My favorite workout during the cross country season would have to be hills, even though they hurt, getting to the top feels great!
What do you feel are your greatest strengths as a distance runner? What do you feel has enabled you to run so fast on the trails and on the track? What is the biggest key to all your success?
I believe my greatest strengths as a distance runner are my determination, drive, and my ability to learn from my coaches. Having strong coaches who believe in me has given me the strength to also believe in my ability. My mindset and focus on the race have enabled me to run well on the trails and track. The biggest key to my success is sticking to my training, trusting my coaches, and remembering my goals.
When is your first race of the season, and what's your goal for that race?
My first race is the Season Opener Invitational at Darlington on September 10th.
My goal for that race is to run in the low 18's, and hope that my team does well overall.
After placing fifth at the Meet of Champions year, you come back as one of the favorites to win that title this season. How much would it mean to you to win your first individual M of C title this season, and what do you feel your chances are of accomplishing that goal?
It would mean everything to me to win my first individual M of C title this season.
Everyone wants to be the top cross country runner in New Jersey, and having that title would be a great accomplishment. I know that competition in NJ is very strong and I hope to be among the top runners this season. With my training, I feel that my chances are strong. However, there is pressure that comes with being one of the favorites to win this title, so I hope to take things in stride and do my best.
How about the team goals this season, Remy. How strong do you feel the team will be this season, and what are the goals for your team this fall?
The girls team definitely has a goal of winning our county title. With all the committed runners on our team, I believe we are strong enough to do so and I am excited to see how it plays out.
NJ is loaded with so much distance running talent? How much does the amount of talent in the state push you to work even harder?
New Jersey has many talented runners and competition is fierce. Many of the top girls that I run against are friendly and very encouraging which I appreciate. I feel this type of environment helps me become better because we push each other.
Let's rewind the clock. How and why did you get involved in running? I imagine your sister Mia played a big part in it.
When I was younger, I played soccer, did gymnastics, and was on a swim team. I didn't start running until I joined the track club in middle school that met twice a week, which I did for fun. It was until my siblings, Max and Mia, told Coach (John) Pontes that I ran in middle school and he wanted Mia to bring me to one of their high school fun runs in the summer. I went on my first fun run and did not find it "fun" but I continued to go because I didn't want to quit and I really liked the team. I eventually realized that I was pretty good at running long distances and wanted to see how much better I could get. Over time, I started to enjoy running and continued ever since.
How much does it help you to have an older sister who is such a great runner? I have to imagine it motivates you to try to chase the times she ran in high school, and to have someone to talk to about running, and to have someone to run with all the time etc?
I feel that having Mia as an older sister who is such a great runner and someone to look up to when running has pushed me the most. Every race since my freshman year, she told me that if I took running seriously, I could actually be really good. I feel she is the biggest supporter because she wants me to break her records and continue to push myself. Running with her is fun because we talk and keep each other company.
Every runner has a breakthrough performance when they reach a huge goal or win a big race, which elevates their confidence level and leads to much bigger things. When was your first big breakthrough race, when you realized you had the potential to be one of the best distance runners in the state?
My first big breakthrough race was coming in 5th at MOCs. I realized my potential that season, and it was an amazing race I will not forget.
How surprised are you by what you've accomplished in your high school running career? You've really come a long way the last couple years.
After looking back at my seasons as a runner, I realized how much better I have gotten since freshman year. I am proud of my races during cross country and indoors. I never thought that I would be this good of a runner, and am so grateful for how much my hard work has paid off. If I did not get sick during the outdoor season, I feel that I could have had a strong season as well. Also weighing on my mind was the passing of my grandmother the night before sectionals.
Who is your favorite distance runner of all-time and why?
My favorite distance runner is Steve Prefontaine who set many American records during the 1970s. Although he did not live very long, his performances and attitude are still remembered today. Coach Pontes always quotes him and reminds the team - "To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift."
What do you love the most about running XC?
What I love most about running cross country is the team and the friendships that I have made. The bond that the team has every year is special to me and it feels like we have a small family. We encourage each other as we race and are happy when accomplishments are made. Having the opportunity to meet other runners through the sport and become friends with some of them even though we are competitors means a lot to me.
If you could go for a long run with any four pro runners (past or present) who would it be and why?
If I could go on a long run with any four pro runners it would be Steve Prefontaine, Emma Coburn, Sydney McLaughlin, and Athing Mu. I find them to be inspirational and would like to have a conversation with them about running and their life in general.
What is the most impressive NJ XC/T&F accomplishment you've ever witnessed, and what made it stand out so much to you?
The most impressive NJ XC/T&F accomplishment I have witnessed would have to be watching Angelina Perez's career as she improved in nearly every race. One specific race that stands out is XC Nationals where I felt excited for watching the race from my laptop. I was impressed because she started running her sophomore year and has accomplished so many great things.
Running shoes: What type of shoes do you train in and race in and why are they your shoes of choice?
I train in Hokas and Brooks, but my favorites are Hokas because they have good support and keep my legs feeling fresh. I race in New Balance spikes which I like.
Favorite running season and why?
My favorite running season would have to be the fall. When the leaves change colors, running on the trails is so much better.
Favorite subject in school and why?
My favorite subject in school is math because I feel I understand it well and really enjoy it.
What did you do this summer when you weren't out there training?
When I wasn't training, I hung out with my friends and worked at Coldstone Creamery.
If you weren't a runner, what sport would you be playing?
If I wasn't a runner, I would probably be playing soccer.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see myself still running and maybe even trying to run a few marathons. At that point, I also hope to have a career in the field that I studied and travel with my sister.
What about college plans, Remy. Have you planned any official visits yet, and what are you looking for in a college?
I am looking for a college that has solid academics and a strong running program. I have been talking to several coaches and hope to plan official visits for the fall.
What advice would you give to younger runners who are first starting out in the sport?
A piece of advice I would give to younger runners who are first starting out in the sport is to not be afraid to fail. During the beginning of sophomore year, I didn't run as well as I thought I would and barely broke my personal record. However, I didn't stop trying and it paid off. I would also say to try to not compare yourself to other people who are your age and started running before you. Everyone progresses at a different rate and it may take time, but it is worth it.